Last Thursday marked the beginning of New York Fashion Week, and like clockwork, the city fell into a seven-day gridlock of runway shows and pop-up events. For the third consecutive year, DapperQ, a digital style platform catering to the non-traditionally masculine, celebrated queer fashion with a free exposition at the Brooklyn Museum.
The event, dubbed iD, featured work by seven gender-experimental designers, including We Are Mortals from Los Angeles and Sir New York, a brand that counts Jaden Smith among its celebrity fans. Set in the museum’s Beaux-Arts Court, decked out attendees perused pop-up shops and displays before a series of runway shows began. Throughout the evening, more than 60 models of every gender identity, color, shape, and ability took to the catwalk at the notably inclusive show.
“As a gender-fluid, trans individual, I find I’m most authentic when I can openly embrace both my masculine and feminine side, or stand outside the box of gender,” says designer Nik Kacy, who created a collection of shoes to complement formalwear by Sharpe Suiting. “I wanted to create a truly gender-equal collection that all kinds of identities can feel authentic wearing.”
From established couture houses to contemporary labels like Raf Simons and Hood by Air, the fashion world has flirted with androgyny for decades. But several designers showing at iD said that the specifically queer character of their work has kept them on the outside. Shao Yang of The Tailory, a custom clothing company in New York, feels pigeonholed. “The industry still expects me to identify as a men’s or women’s wear designer, whereas I just see myself as a designer that creates self-identity and expression,” she says. On and off the runway, the looks at iD reinvented gendered style concepts like makeup, suits, and high heels. Designs by We Are Mortals, accented with motifs representing fluidity, came with a message: “The future has no gender” flashing in multiple languages across a screen next to the runway.
The show ended with a tribute to victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, a reminder of why spaces like iD are so important. “On this platform, any and every form in which you choose to exist in is celebrated,” say Stoney and Uzo, the designers behind Stuzo Clothing. “Having the world see you the way you see yourself is a powerful tool,” says Yang. “This show really struck a chord for me because all of the models that walked in the show felt that the clothing really expressed who they are.”